7 More Lies ADHD People Tell Ourselves

Sept. 25th, 2017

Many of us with ADHD are inherently optimistic, hopeful even. We just assume things will work out. And this is a positive thing, right up until we believe it will, without any influence from us. Here are a bunch more lies our ADHD brains come up with, and the truth hidden in them. You can find more here and here.

1. “I have to record every single one of my ideas!”

Ideas are one of the things people with ADHD are often famous for. When we brainstorm, the entire area around us becomes saturated with creativity. My favorite personal example of this is from a Dungeons and Dragons session I was playing in. The dungeon master paused in his narration and said: “Uh, wait, I didn’t come up with a name for this character.” And, without even pausing in my knitting I said “Vena.” My DM was deeply impressed. I’d just invented a great fantasy name without any preparation or foreknowledge. This is how my ADHD brain works.

It can be problematic when we attempt to record and collect all our ideas, though. This can lead to piles of paper, stacks of notebooks, and bursting cloud storage. We are so prolific with creativity and ideas that often it would be impossible for us to enact them all, even were we to live three lifetimes.

Whenever a new idea for a project comes to me, I try to pause and mentally fit the project into my life. Do I have time, physical space, energy? Is this something I’ll be likely to have time, space, or energy for in the future? When? How much money will it cost? Who else is involved or impacted by this project? Will other current projects get forgotten and left unfinished if this new one is started now? What is the need or desire behind this idea or project that I could meet in some other way? Examining these things helps me be realistic about what is possible and important to me.

2. “I tried that once and it didn’t work, so it will never work.”

Untreated, ADHD is rarely famous for its inherent patience (except in the case of hyperfocus, but that’s a very different thing). It takes a lot of effort for us to gain any ground in an area we are not perfectly suited for. One of the most common examples is of mental health professionals. Not every therapist is suited to every patient and if someone gained no benefit from one, that does not mean they won’t gain benefit from therapy at all.

The correct delivery system is also essential in the area of processing. If someone is a very visual learner, describing the correct method to them will not work very well, no matter how carefully they listen or how detailed the explanation. Figuring out what we need and then how it can work for us is incredibly important for all mental health management, including ADHD.

3. “It’s just two small steps. It isn’t that hard.”

As I’ve mentioned before, with ADHD it isn’t as easy as two steps are twice as hard as one, but more like twenty times as hard. Just because afterward it seems like it was easy, this does not mean we get to beat ourselves up. We did not imagine it being hard, it really was hard to begin.

Now, it can be helpful to slot away the knowledge that it was much easier than we thought it would be for the next time we have to do that task, but that’s not the same thing. One builds us up and the other tears us down.

4. “Just one more chapter/episode/level/seam and then I’ll stop.”

Or as some call it “One More Thingitus”. We have a limited ability to transfer our attention away from something engaging. This is why social media can be so seductive and such a hard cycle to break. It’s never just one more, it’s a merry-go-round it takes an enormous amount of energy and awareness to break free from.

Technology can be very helpful in this area. Plugging the TV into a timer power bar that shuts off at bedtime. Computer limiting extensions like this. I once used the Stop Playing mode of the timer on my tablet to turn off YouTube. It didn’t shut me out of it, but the entertainment ceasing abruptly was enough to shake me out of my stupor.

5. “Other people deserve positive things, but I don’t.”

I’ve almost never heard anyone say this out loud, but it is definitely in our thoughts and beliefs. We gladly offer and suggest self-care, comfort, compassion, and empathy to others, but when it comes to ourselves, something stops us. The world is just so not built for us that at every turn we are lead to believe we are wrong, broken, misfits, nuisances, mess-ups. This is such a constant refrain that we come to believe it.

Once we “get it right”, then we will “deserve” good treatment, this is what we might think. The deeply ironic thing about this theory is that it is so much harder to get anything “right” when we aren’t getting what we need. When we don’t give ourselves a break, we are having to struggle under the weight of our own pressure, as well as everything else in our lives.

6. “I can’t do this/find this difficult, so that must mean I’m bad.”

Along the same lines as number 5. So many of the things that come naturally to us are often labeled as “bad”. Impulsivity, inattention, distractibility. I could go on, but that would be boring.

There are so many ways in which our natural abilities can be positive things. Finding social groups that appreciate us is essential. Seeking out and building careers that function on our strengths and a limited time on our weaknesses can be game-changing. At the very least, allowing ourselves time to let our natural impulses loose, in a non-harmful way, is so important for us. We cannot survive and thrive if we are constantly compressing ourselves into tiny boxes.

7. “Because I have ADHD, that means I’ll never succeed or be happy.”

There are so many reasons why this thought is so hard to shake. Just because there are many things helpful to a smooth life (paying bills, cleaning, exercise, sleep) that we aren’t naturally built for does not mean they are impossible or must be excruciating. With a little creativity, it is very possible to shape life to us, instead of the other way around.

What other lies have you told yourself?